To improve quality and reduce cost of accessing healthcare, federal and state governments should direct reforms and policies to deliver primary healthcare, provide health insurance for the poor and allow for private sector actors to handle tertiary and emergency healthcare.
This was the submission of experts during the plenary on social welfare targeted at healthcare at the Alaghodaro Investment Summit, organised at the weekend by the Edo State Government, in Benin City.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, who was the discussion leader at the plenary, said that the Edo State government is on the verge of domesticating the National Health Act, noting that the move will greatly improve healthcare delivery in the state.
According to him, “Not only is the Edo State government on the verge of domesticating the National Health Act, it is also working to have a health insurance scheme that will cover all. The state will also serve as a pilot for the implementation of the primary healthcare programme.”
Former Chief Medical Director at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Prof. Michael Ibadin, said that there was need for more private sector participation in healthcare delivery.
Arguing that the dominance of government in health sector has stifled growth, he said, “We can improve healthcare delivery when we get more private sector participation. When we do this, we would have less incessant strikes. There is evidence that private hospitals are delivering good services. But most people have been left to suffer because a lot of people depend on service in public hospitals. We need this trend to change.”
Dr. Christopher Otabor of Alliance Hospital, Abuja, said that Governor Godwin Obaseki’s experience in the private sector is one of the greatest assets he is bringing to governance, noting that government should provide guarantees that will allow people access healthcare cost-efficiently.
“When it appears healthcare is anchored on private sector investment and accessing services is hard for the poor, government can provide insurance. The stage is being set in Edo State for this. Government doesn’t necessarily have to bring money to fund hospitals. It can provide guarantees and ensure that there is a stable environment for hospitals to thrive,” he said.
Prof. Jonny Ikimalo of Prime Hospital said that the reason for poor health indices in Nigeria is due to poor budgetary allocations, condemning the fact that a lot of people have to pay for services out of their pockets when they are already in hospitals.
According to him, “Healthcare is expensive and I have a problem when people talk about health insurance for the poor. People think that anything that relates to insurance is expensive because what we ordinarily associate with insurance are cars, life and the likes. We should rather call it health plans. Healthcare is a social responsibility. So, much as we suggest that government should allow private investment, it should also provide cover for the poor.
“What I understand from the visionary stance of the state governor, is that the state is already putting in place a health insurance scheme which will provide health coverage for everybody, including the underprivileged. I think it is work in progress and it is expected that this summit will make input into it.”
Rev. Fr. Anslem Adodo of Pax Herbal Clinic noted that the there was need to promote traditional medicine in the quest to attain universal health coverage, noting, “One of the surest means to provide healthcare to the people is to recognise the place of traditional healthcare. But to do this, we must reform and integrate traditional medicine in our health system in Edo State.”